For the past few months I have been in the middle of a project at work which as brought me into the embedded Linux world. This has been an area I have touched on, craved to do more of and I finally have my wish. It is a dark world of hacking software and hardware, mailing lists and IRC channels. Well really it is not that dark but you do see corners of the internet that the average joe never gets too. Back on topic..
My target platform has been the i.MX53 from Freescale, this System-on-Chip is a powerful applications processor which is targeted at high-end devices such as tablets and smart-phones, the processor comes with a wealth of features and functionality, which I'm not going to go into, as I am sure that if you are reading this then, you have probably already downloaded the datasheets.
There are numerous dev kits on the market with BSPs, some good and some bad (you know who you are), but if I were to recommend one, then I'd check out the DIMM-MX53 from Emtrion. Their Linux BSP is packed full and is very easy to use. For example I have just added USB gadget support to my kit (this support does not come out of the box). If you have any questions about the development kit then I'll be happy answer them if I can.
For me, the best part of this development cycle has been the use of professional build tools and commercially supported Linux source code. Now your probably thinking why pay for Linux when it is free. The answer time.
When I started work on the first i.MX53 kit I had (that didn't work out) I wasted about two weeks, building, patching, hacking and tweaking the BSP and RFS. Now the purist would argue that is all part of the opensource development cycle, which is fine, but when you need packages and tools that just work and support when you need it then I can only recommend using Timesys Linux.
In a single afternoon, I had imported the kernel from the BSP, built a working kernel image and RFS with all the packages. This was impressive, for someone who, at the time, did not have much experience in building a system, I must admit I'm a lot more confident than I was. The great side effect is that it breaks you into the opensource mentality a lot more easily, the learning curve is not as steep but you will end up hacking the system in the end, downloading patches and in my case writing your own device drivers. The support and documentation from Timesys has a wealth of information to help anyone understand how the kernel works how applications interact with it and more importantly (for me) how to optimise it (as of today my kernel boots in 2.5 seconds, it will get quicker).
All I can say is check them out, some of their support documents can be view publicly. They also run a trial of there web based build tool which is a great way to assess what is possible. A paid subscriber will get access to the desktop version of the Factory build tool which is a lot more versatile.